Sunday, 2 May 2010

Zico - World Cup Football Legends


Arthur Antunes Coimbra (Portuguese pronunciation: [axˈtux ɐ̃ˈtũnis koˈĩbrɐ]; born 3 March 1953 in Rio de Janeiro), better known as Zico ([ˈziku]), is a Brazilian coach and former footballer. Often called the "White Pelé", he is commonly considered one of the most skilled dribblers and finishers ever and possibly the world's best player of the early 80's. He was also known as one of history's greatest free kick specialists, able to bend the ball with pace and accuracy as well as having an extremely powerful shot. The gifted midfielder was named by Pelé as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers in March 2004. Also according to Pelé, generally considered the best footballer ever, "throughout the years, the one player that came closest to me was Zico".

Zico scored 52 goals in 72 international matches for Brazil, and represented them in the 1978, 1982 and 1986 World Cups. They did not win any of those tournaments, even though the 1982 squad is considered one of the greatest Brazilian national squads ever. Zico is often considered one of the best players in football history not to have been on a World Cup winning squad. He was chosen 1983 Player of the Year.

Zico has coached the Japanese national team, appearing in the 2006 FIFA World Cup and winning the Asian Cup 2004, and Fenerbahce, who were a quarter-finalist in 2007-08 in the Champions League under his command. He was announced as the head coach of CSKA Moscow in January 2009. On September 16, 2009, Zico was signed by Greek side Olympiacos F.C. for a two-year contract after the club's previous coach, Temuri Ketsbaia, was sacked. He was fired four months later, on January 19, 2010.

Playing Career

Zico came from a lower-middle-class family, in the neighborhood of Quintino, Rio de Janeiro. In common with many Brazilians, he spent much of his youth dreaming of playing professional football. In 1967, while still a teenager, he had a scheduled trial at América, where his brothers Antunes and Edu were playing at the time. But he caught the attention of the radio reporter and friend, Celso Garcia, who asked Zico's father to take him to a trial at Flamengo instead. Being a fan of Flamengo, Zico had his father's approval, beginning his path towards becoming one of the most admired players in the history of the sport.

Physically Zico was not strong, and his history of determination and discipline began with a hard muscle and body development program conducted by the Physical Education teacher José Roberto Francalacci. A combination of hard work and also a special diet sponsored by his team enabled him to develop a strong body and become an athlete. This later proved to be essential for his success.
In 1971, he had some appearances in the professional team but only one year later, after 116 matches and 81 goals in the youth team, Zico was promoted to Flamengo's professional squad.

While at Flamengo, Zico was a key player during the most glorious period of the team's history. Along with many other titles, in his first period at Flamengo he led the team to victory in the 1981 Copa Libertadores, the 1981 Intercontinental Cup, and four national titles (1980/82/83/87). On the field, Zico made goals in all imaginable ways, was also a great assister and team organizer, and was known for his excellent vision of the field. He was a two-footed player and an expert at free kicks. In the 1978 World Cup against Sweden, Zico headed a corner kick into the goal in the final minute of the match, apparently breaking a 1-1 tie. However, in a call that became infamous, the Welsh referee Clive Thomas disallowed the goal, saying that he had blown the whistle to end the match while the ball was still in the air.

In a multi-million dollar transaction, he was hired to play for Udinese, in Italy, from 1983 to 1985. Though leaving some Brazilian fans in sadness, he led Udinese to be among the best Italian teams. In Italy, Zico had personal disputes against Juventus's Michel Platini and Napoli's Diego Maradona. In the 1983-84 Italian League season, Zico scored 19 goals - one less than the championship top scorer Platini, having played 6 matches less than the French footballer. Ultimately Udinese failed to win any relevant competition and Zico eventually went back to Brazil and Flamengo, sponsored by a group of companies.

On his return, he suffered a knee injury after a violent tackle from Bangu's defender Marcio Nunes, which interrupted his career for several months. He played in the 1986 FIFA World Cup while still injured, and missed a penalty during regular time in the quarter-final match against France. The match ended in a tie which led to a shootout. Zico then scored his goal but after penalties missed by Sócrates and Júlio César, Brazil were knocked out. Recovered from injuries, things improved for Zico in 1987 when he led Flamengo to their fourth national title.

In December 1989 Zico made his last official appearance for Flamengo in a Brazilian National Championship match against rivals Fluminense. Zico made the first goal and Flamengo won the match 5-0. Two months later, he would play his last match as a Flamengo player facing a World Cup Masters team composed of names like Gerets, Gentile, Causio, Tarantini, Valdano, Kempes, Breitner, Rummenigge and Falcão.

With 731 matches for Flamengo, Zico is the player with the 2nd most appearances for the club. His 508 goals make him the club's top scorer ever. The achievements of the greatest idol in Flamengo's history inspired the Brazilian singer Jorge Benjor to write a song in his honour - Camisa 10 da Gávea - helping create the mystique of the club's number 10. Zico also represented Brazil in the World Cup of Masters, scoring in the final of the 1990 and 1991 editions.

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